How to Conquer Common Money Traps at Every Age

By Megan Nye | May 22, 2017

First, the bad news: It doesn’t matter how old you are.

There’s always a new way for you to make big money mistakes. To mess up the financial balance you’ve worked so hard to create in your life.

Don’t worry – there’s good news too: With a little knowledge and a bit of planning, you can demolish the financial obstacles that stand in your way.

Your 20s: Living large

If you’re fresh out of college and you’ve landed a full-time job, you’ve been dropped into a foreign environment. All of a sudden you probably have ...

  • Way more income than you ever earned from a part-time gig.
  • Student loan debt that’s due for repayment soon.
  • New living expenses as you transition from the dorm to your own place.The solution? Creating good money habits right from the start:
  • It’s a lot of financial change – and responsibility – all at once. And it can make you freak out or stumble your way into bad money decisions. Mistakes like overspending, credit card debt, and student loan default are common.
  1. Learn money skills right away and become financially literate.
  2. Get organized to stay on top of your income sources, your bills, your debt, and your long-term goals.
  3. Live below your means, putting the excess toward savings, debt repayment, and even retirement. Compound interest will make your money grow like crazy by the time you exit the workforce!

Your 30s: Taking on too much

Once you enter your 30s, you’re definitely adulting.

Thirty-somethings buy houses, have kids, and purchase new cars. (Hello, minivan.) And you may find yourself in over your head with . . .

  • A burdensome mortgage,
  • Hefty car payments,
  • And pricey childcare and education costs. The solution? Pursuing your financial priorities:
  • Once you exit your 20s, it’s easy to start drowning in new, huge expenses . . . and maybe even loads of debt.
  1. Make a list of your competing financial goals – retirement by 65, educational funding for the kids, a new patio, etc.
  2. Make a budget, differentiating between fixed costs (like your monthly mortgage payment) and variable expenses (like food & vacation spending).
  3. Use (or tweak) your budget to create a realistic timeline for achieving your big financial goals.
  4. Make sure your family is protected along the way with an emergency fund, life insurance, disability insurance, and more.

Your 40s: Juggling big money goals

It’s starting to get real.

If you plan to retire in your 60s, half of your working years are already behind you. And if you plan on helping your kids pay for college, you’re rapidly running out of time before dorm move-in day.

A huge mistake that well-meaning parents make is over-sacrificing for that tuition bill. It’s wildly tempting to pull that money from . . .

  • Your retirement accounts,
  • The home equity you’ve built up,
  • And your credit cards.
  • The solution? Getting realistic about what you can contribute to your kids’ college funds:
  1. Make sure you’re funding your retirement accounts enough to hit your target numbers. (Remember: You can get a college loan but not a retirement loan!)
  2. Explore ways to save money on that college bill, like attending a less expensive school, sharing living expenses with a roommate, and seeking out scholarships. Every little bit helps.
  3. Don’t be afraid of college loans. More than two-thirds of U.S. students leaving four-year colleges carry student loan debt. Help your kids to make good decisions about loans so they don’t take on too much debt or face unrealistic repayment terms after graduation.

Your 50s & 60s: Not gearing up for your golden years

Retirement is looming around the corner, but you may be floundering.

As you think about transitioning to the next phase of your life, you’re faced with major decisions about ...

  • When you’re officially throwing your briefcase into storage.
  • Exactly how much money you need to retire.
  • What your retirement will look like personally and financially.The solution? Cover all of your bases before that big day:
  • Here’s what you don’t want to do: Eat your retirement party cake before working out all of your financials.
    1. Create a detailed plan for your retirement lifestyle. Talk with your financial advisor or use an online calculator to figure out how exactly how much money you’ll need to have saved.
  • Use your age to your benefit. Now’s the time to take advantage of catch-up contributions and, yes, senior discounts on your favorite products and services.
  • Get your affairs in order now. Update your will, discuss approaches to tax savings with an accountant, and look into the costs of long-term care insurance.
  • Make it last. Don’t take unnecessary risks by making your retirement portfolio too stock-heavy. And don’t start tapping in to your accounts or your Social Security money too early.

Along life’s journey, you’ll encounter an ever-changing landscape of financial needs and opportunities. But you can navigate your way successfully with a proactive plan for your money!

Author Bio

Megan Nye is a freelance writer who crafts personal finance and lifestyle content for businesses, blogs, and publications. Her clients include The Huffington Post, The Penny Hoarder, The Dollar Stretcher,, Vibrant Life, Dealspotr, ChimpChange, and Money Saving Mom.